Getting good sleep is just as important as eating properly and exercising regularly. Although researchers haven’t discovered exactly why humans need sleep, they’ve discovered that better sleep and better mental health go hand-in-hand.
The Importance of Good Sleep
While you’re asleep, your body performs many processes that repair and maintain your mental health. Once you take a look at these processes, you’ll understand why you need better sleep.
Waking up well-rested will positively impact your mood because sleep is known to restore your body and improve your energy level. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re at a higher risk of mental distress. If this continues to happen, you may become irritable or develop anxiety or depression. Fortunately, you can resolve these symptoms by developing a consistent sleep routine.
Improved Mental Function
Researchers have discovered what they call the “brain plasticity theory.” This theory has to do with why people sleep. It states that humans need sleep so that their brains can grow, make new neural connections, reorganize, restructure, and improve both memory and cognitive thinking.
Allowing your brain to do these things while you’re asleep also enables you to learn new information and form new memories. When you get good sleep, you’ll notice that your concentration, problem-solving, and decision-making skills improve. In other words, a good night’s sleep improves your productivity.
The opposite is also true in that a lack of sleep negatively impacts your ability to learn, form memories, think clearly, and function at an optimal level throughout the day. Studies have shown that within just a week of insufficient sleep (5 hours or less per night), your ability to think quickly will slow down. Your accuracy on tasks will also decrease, and you’ll perform poorly in activities that require attention to multiple tasks (e.g., driving).
By getting better sleep at night, you’re able to manage stress better. Waking up feeling refreshed allows you to avoid the stressors you experience when you feel sleep-deprived (e.g., anxiety, depression, extreme stress).
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
There are several things you can do to help yourself get better sleep. These practices are known as “sleep hygiene.” They’re lifestyle adjustments that can help you sleep better each night. They include:
- Have a consistent sleep schedule (when you go to bed and wake up), even on weekends.
- Don’t nap for more than 20 minutes during the day. This will lessen your fatigue without messing up your sleep schedule. You also don’t want to take a nap too late in the afternoon, or you’ll have problems going to sleep when it’s bedtime.
- Have a dark, quiet, and cool bedroom to sleep in.
- For better sleep, avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bedtime. Studies show that all these things will affect your sleep. While caffeine is known to boost your energy and alertness, nicotine interrupts your sleep, and alcohol causes you to have lighter, lower-quality sleep.
- Get some exercise during the day, so it’s easier to sleep at night. This will also give your mental health a boost because it produces endorphins (the “feel good” chemicals in your brain. When possible, exercise outside in the sun, so you have the added benefit of vitamin D, but don’t exercise too late in the day, or it’ll have the reverse effect.
Talk to a Mental Health Provider About Sleep
If you’re concerned about your mental health, contact us at Advantage Mental Health Center in Clearwater, FL. We can help you identify potential causes for your sleep disturbances and work with you to discover personalized strategies for better sleep, so contact us today.